The purpose of this article series has been to encourage myself and others to evaluate our false self-images so that we can find a new and better identity in Jesus Christ.
It can be difficult to peel away the layers of identity we put on over time—either as a means of conforming to what this world says we are or should be, or as a means of protection against the cruelties of this world.
The difficulty is greater when our sense of self is attached to strong ideals, especially once that ideal becomes a kind of god to us, controlling our thoughts, emotions, and actions—even encouraging us to destroy other people who attack our ideal because when that ideal is attacked, we feel personally threatened.
It can be difficult to look at ourselves honestly because we might think ourselves to be worse than the average person. Maybe we think that something is especially wrong with us, and we would rather hide from our darker selves and believe in the persona we have created for others to see.
However, there is a place where we can begin to do this hard work, and the reward is immeasurable.
There is One knows us already. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our every thought and every deep intention of our heart. He knows what motivates us, what hurts us, what limits our ability to grow.
He knows exactly what we need to find freedom from the emotional and mental pain we carry. He knows how to divide us from the damaging things of this world and replace these things with a life-giving substance: Himself.
In Jesus we can be true with ourselves. There is no need to be anything else. In Jesus we can find a place of real purpose and contentment. In Jesus we can find what love really is. In Jesus we can find security in a hurtful and confusing world. In Jesus we can find life—even everlasting life.
Whether you have been a Christian for years, or if you are a new convert or an unbeliever, If you struggle with issues of toxic identity, I hope you will consider what Jesus can do for you.
I’ve been there. I was never allowed to be myself because myself was always degraded and replaced with what everyone else said I should be. I became those things—most of which revolved around the negative labels that were fed to me for most of my life. One day I realized that I did not even exist. I was an empty shell of a person with no real identity.
It took a lot of time and work to get to know who I really am, and I am still learning. This began by looking at my faults honestly and realizing that I am a sinful person. Then I realized that everyone else is too, and that is why we need Jesus. From there I began to learn about Him and His teachings, I sought the Holy Spirit for two years and He came to me.
From there I continued to learn through exposure to different challenges as necessary for my growth, and now I am continuing on a new work of stripping away all of the aspects of myself that do not fit in with His Kingdom—and I have learned that a lot of these aspects of self were engrafted into my heart and mind through abuse.
I know this is the case for many people, though not always. I think most people can relate to the ideas mentioned in this series, simply because we live in this world and there is nothing we can do to prevent the things of this world from getting into us and molding us.
In Jesus, I am finding out who I really am, and this is not an identity of flattery or man-pleasing, nor is it an identity of toxic self-hatred. This is an identity that is beginning to know the person that God created.
This is a place and purpose in an everlasting Kingdom that is free from the ideologies, hatreds, and all variety of constraints in this world. There is still work to do in divesting myself of this world and waiting to see what Jesus will replace that with, and I expect this to be an ongoing journey until this life is over.
I feel so sorry for people who struggle with self-image or feel as if they have no place in this world. I am the same, but I know that Jesus is near the brokenhearted, and if we struggle in these areas then that means we are poor in spirit and that is good.
If we recognize our poverty of spirit then we can go to the One who created us and who can show us what our life was created to achieve in a new and better Kingdom than this dead world.
Do not make up for self-image or self-esteem issues by filling yourself with flattery or with the ideologies of this world. Do not make up for a painful life with destructive behaviors, drugs and alcohol, or pursuit of wealth and popularity. The things of this world only make a person fat in spirit and hinders growth in something better. However, our state is never too far gone for Jesus to deal with. I know this from personal experience too.
Reach out to Jesus, even if it feels strange at first. Call on His name and talk to Him. Talk to Him about your pain. Give it all to Him. Talk to Him about your struggles with destructive behaviors or desires that you wish you could overcome. Ask for Him to show you the truth in this confused world. Keep seeking Him and maybe He will answer.
How will He answer? Maybe He fills you with a desire to read the scriptures, or maybe He sends someone into your life who will help you learn and grow. His ways are perfect for each person because He knows precisely what and who He made. When He reaches back, you will know.